What If You Were Charged With DUI After An Accident In California?

Getting a DUI in California carries harsh penalties without a car accident. However, your penalties are more severe if driving under the influence after an accident.

Suppose someone sustained serious injuries from the accident. In that case, you should expect even more significant punishment.

DUI Accident in California

California Vehicle Code 23153 VC is the statute that defines DUI-causing injury as a “wobbler” that can be filed as either a misdemeanor or felony.

If you were charged with a DUI after an accident in Los Angeles, contact our DUI lawyers to review the details and legal options. You have ten days from the date of the arrest to challenge the DMV’s automatic driver's license suspension.

When police officers arrive at the scene of the accident, they will first check the well-being of everyone involved to see if they need medical treatment. During this routine process, they also look for signs of being under the influence.

This includes slurred speech, the smell of alcohol, and unsteady balance, among others. If the police believe you are intoxicated, they will ask you to perform some tests to see if you are drunk, such as the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, where they will tell you to follow the movement of their pen with your eyes without moving your head.

Police officers at the scene of the accident will also test for alcohol and intoxication in different ways:

  • Alcohol screening test using a preliminary alcohol screening device (PAS), which is essentially a hand-held breathalyzer machine commonly used by police on the scene of a DUI arrest;
  • Field sobriety test where police will ask you to perform specific tasks that typically show that you are under the effects of alcohol or drugs, such as the one-leg balance, walk-the-line, finger-to-nose, and the alphabet tests.

Suppose you refuse the officer's tests. In that case, you can still be arrested for DUI and will face additional penalties for refusing a breathalyzer, blood test, or field sobriety test.

What Are the Penalties for DUI Involving an Accident?

DUIs are undoubtedly serious enough in California, but when you add in an accident, you're potentially facing jail or prison time depending on the extent of the accident and the damages and injuries to any parties to the accident, whether they be pedestrians or people in other vehicles.

If you hurt somebody in another vehicle, you could be facing a felony DUI, which ranges from a:

  • minimum of 90 days in jail and up to 3 years in prison;
  • great bodily injuries add three years, making it a strike, and you will face up to 6 years in prison;

If it's your first offense, and you're involved in an accident, and it's one of those soft tissue accidents, and you had a license and insurance, we can often keep you out of jail.

Penalties for DUI Involving an Accident in California

However, that puts you on the cusp of jail right off the top should you be involved in a DUI or an accident.

So that's one of the harmful factors prosecutors look at when assessing what to do in these DUI cases. 

You're always better off if you can avoid an accident.  If you have one, you've got to have insurance.

If the accident is your fault, we've got to make sure that the other party is compensated because you'll also be facing restitution for any damages to any property, whether vehicles or other property and any medical bills that the other party might have.

You're not facing pain and suffering when it comes to a criminal case for the other party, but they could sue you civilly, which would be a parallel action that could be instituted against you.

What Are Sentencing Enhancements?

DUI sentence enhancements mean you will face additional penalties on top of the standard DUI charge, such as the following:

  • Misdemeanor DUI causing injury involves minor injuries to someone in your vehicle or another person's car. You will face at least five days in jail for this charge and a one-year driver's license suspension.
  • Felony DUI causing injury involves accidents where someone sustained serious injuries. You will face up to five years in state prison for each person who was seriously injured.
  • Vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated involves accidents where someone is killed. You will face up to six years in state prison.

Further, you face additional liabilities for any injuries caused in a DUI accident. You will have to pay for an injured person's medical bills and lost wages. The victim could also seek punitive damages under California law.

How Can You Prepare a Strong Defense?

To be charged and face sentence enhancements for DUI involving an accident, the prosecutor has to prove that you were both over the legal BAC limit of 0.08% and that you were responsible for the car accident and injuries.

Los Angeles DUI Attorney

Perhaps we can challenge the breath test results or allegations that you caused the accident. You need a skilled DUI attorney who can fairly present the facts of the case.

Perhaps we can argue that the prosecutor overlooked many relevant factors, such as the weather conditions or that the other driver was responsible for the accident.

So, if you or a loved one were involved in a DUI and an accident occurred, you need an attorney immediately.  I've been doing this now for approximately 30 years.

If you need the best, pick up the phone now.  Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding.  I stand at the ready to help you.  

A DUI involving an accident is certainly nothing to think likely of. So come in and meet me. We'll get a strategy that works for you, your life, career, future, driver's license, and freedom. The Hedding Law Firm is located in Los Angeles, California.